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Author Topic: [Lacuna] Questions about pacing  (Read 2253 times)

Posts: 6

« on: August 17, 2010, 06:13:40 AM »

Greetings, The Forge.

My name is Brad, I'm new, and I've been gaming for as long as I can remember, starting with video games, moving into WH40k, and then into RPGs. My first flirtations with a RPG was D&D 3.5, although my introduction to actual roleplaying was through InSpectres (and, I suppose, extra-curricular and then just curricular theater, through high school). Since then I've played a large variety of games, though most only once or twice each.

About a year ago, I picked up a PDF copy of Lacuna (not Second Attempt) and ran a one-time game for a few of my friends. The group was a mix of indie-story-gamers and hard-core D&D players. Overall, I think the game went well and everyone had fun, but I'm not sure I had the pacing worked out correctly.

In short summary, the players were dropped off in the Blue City in an alley way, and needed to find their way to the central train station. There they figured out that the HP host they were tracking was a worker at the big oil refinery in BC, and there was a convenient commute train from the station to the refinery. The players, seeing this as far too obvious an answer, instead attacked a random personality and stole his car from outside the station, driving to the refinery. Once at the refinery, the players decided to sneak in through the back, attempting to hack into the personnel computer. I had established earlier that printed text in BC was illegible to the Agents -- not sure if that's something from the book or something I just made up. They weren't getting anywhere, though, so I let them get some information about the target, and then they were approached by a middle-management personality from another room. They talked him into giving them a tour, but when they reached his office they simply jumped him, knocking him out and taking his badge and suit. From there, they walked around a while, until they reached a core chamber of the refinery, a massive cylindrical room with (what else) metal grate catwalks ringing the room at each floor. They spotted the host and attacked, and that was when the HP shed it's host and came out in the open. The HP was a large blob of constantly-flaming humanoid blob of viscous oil -- the fire made it impossible for the Agents to tag him. Getting creative, they started grabbing fire extinguishers and, after several successful attacks, they managed to quench enough of the fire (and, thus, sufficiently solidify a chunk  of the goo) to be able to tag him, sending him to the Lacuna and completing their mission.

The main problems that kept coming up were dead-ends in the story. I think that much of that was caused by me being overprepared for one particular route, and not ready enough to improvise, and the rest came from myself and the players having differing perspectives on what the mood of the game was supposed to be (curiously, much of the unexpected violence was perpetrated by the indie-gamers, and much of the sneaking around and hacking was done by the D&D players).

I also noticed, however, that because I only had one mission planned (approaching it from a "1 quest per session" D&D perspective), and had expected it to last for at least a certain amount of time, I kept trying to throw more obstacles in the path of the Agents, instead of simply letting them progress successfully. In particular, I think that I made the HP confrontation longer than necessary. I was trying to (a) ensure that all Agents were involved in the action, (b) get at least some of the Agents into dangerous heart rate ranges (most were still pretty calm at this point), and (c) make the fight exciting and tense by drawing it out.

It seemed that (a) worked reasonably well, and I made some progress along (b), but (c) seemed to fall short, and I couldn't figure out why at the time. However, (unless I'm remembering incorrectly) I think it was due to the fact that there was no real way for the HP to actually harm the Agents, as only the Agents would ever roll dice. Effectively, only the Agents could harm themselves, by attempting to take actions. Thus, some of the players simply stopped participating during the last few "rounds" of the confrontation, to preserve their heart rates.

After that long explanation, I suppose my question really comes down to: what tends to be a good pacing (in terms of # of challenges / missions) for a Lacuna session? Do people typically run sessions of just one longer mission, or are they usually sessions consisting of several shorter, back-to-back missions? It seemed like my idea would have worked well as a brief mission (maybe ~45m-1hr) but I couldn't figure out how to add enough challenges to the game to get many of the Agents close to dangerous heart rates.

Brad H
Christoph Boeckle

Posts: 545

Yverdon, Switzerland

« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2010, 06:20:16 AM »

Hello Brad and welcome to the Forge!

I hear your concerns. Best thing I can do is to is share my own experience with the game. I had a first session that felt a bit flat, and then I changed a few things radically for a much more interesting session (there are some other links you can check out from there).
The points that did it for me are the ones I outlined in the second session:
  • Use the implied "ambiguities" in the relationships between Mentors and other named NPCs to bring disturbing situations into play (disturbing because it puts the mission in context with something more complicated and makes the characters question what they do). The superiors are often lying bastards, crazy idealists, incompetent douchebags and they might not like one another.
  • Play Personalities in the Blue City as if they were real people. Maybe this could help prevent gratuitous acts of violence in your next game?
Also, returning characters do grow and players get used to the setting, so things become meatier as missions go on.

When I play again, I'll probably have rather short (~1 hours pure mission sounds good to me) and minimally prepared missions that become bizarre because of Control messing up or trying to screw the Agents (the Static rules help for this part) and inter-mission play where the Agents interact with their superiors. The point is not so much the mission and it's duration. A mission might be finished quite quickly or even aborted. At some point, the Agents will start to question their superiors... and that's when play can go into the material that's suggest for advanced Agents. At least, that's what I find interesting in the game. Hope that helps.

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 17707

« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2010, 11:35:39 AM »

Whoa, let me check to make sure I understand. Brad, you're playing with the First Attempt rules, right? I can see the issue right there, having played them myself - there are no Static rules.

Christoph is talking about the Second Attempt, which includes a central mechanic for governing GM-led content, both about Blue City and about the Agency. I suspect that if you were to use this version of the rules, your pacing issues would vanish instantly.

Now, as it happens, we had little trouble with pacing when we used the First Attempt, but that is due specifically to me being very pacing-oriented and very high-content as GM. It helped that I had a content-based model for playing the game, or to put it simply, I had some powerful images and plans for what would or might happen (see [Lacuna Part 1] "Nine gram medal"), but as this is the way I GM in general unless I specifically try to do it differently. So I was sort of an ideal GM for the First Attempt and it's not fair to expect anyone else to do the same.

So I guess this is a suggestion to check out the Second Attempt, specifically the Static rules. There are some other differences too, most especially concerning the details of re-rolls and pushing, but the Static is the main thing.

Best, Ron
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